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The Byzantine Empire

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The Byzantine Empire
The Roman empire, divided in the late AD200’s, was
weakened by internal and external forces. Power
shifted to the east, as Germanic invaders weakened
the western half of the once great Roman empire.
By 330, the emperor Constantine, had built a new capital
city in Constantinople on the site of the Greek city
Byzantium. The Byzantine empire arose from this site.
At its height, the Byzantine empire covered an area
from Rome through southeastern Europe and Asia
Minor, down to Egypt and across North Africa.
The city of Constantinople, was on a peninsula overlooking
the Bosporus, a strait connecting the Black Sea to the
Mediterranean Sea. From its central location, the city
controlled key trade routes that liked Europe and Asia.
The Byzantine empire reached its peak under the
emperor Justinian. Justinian was a autocratic ruler,
or single ruler with complete authority.
Emperor Justinian became known for his collection of ancient
laws known as Justinian’s Code. This written set of laws
became the basis today’s international laws.
In the area of architecture, Justinian blended Greek, Roman,
Persian and Middle Eastern styles. The best known structure
is the Church of Hagia Sophia whose name means “Holy
In the area of art, the Byzantine empire made great
contributions. Icons were images of Jesus, the Virgin
Mary and others. These icons were supposed the
create the sense that the holy person was actually
Byzantine artists also developed Mosaics, pictures or
designs formed by inlaid pieces of stone or other
materials. Mosaics often displayed religious themes.
In 1054, permanent split or schism occurred between the
Orthodox Christian Church in the East and the Roman
Catholic Church in the West.
The decline of the Byzantine empire came with the onset
of invading armies. The final blow came at the hands of
the Ottoman empire in 1453.
The Byzantine empire hoped to preserve Greek and Roman
culture and also strongly influenced the first Russian state.
As Russia traded with the Byzantine empire, the Byzantines
influenced both Russian and eastern European
The Byzantines gave Russia a written language. Two
Byzantine missionaries adapted the Greek alphabet This
new system, called the Cyrillic alphabet is still used in
Russia today.
Byzantine missionaries carried Orthodox Christianity to
Russia and other Eastern European nations.
Another Byzantine influence on Russia was that of an
autocratic ruler. Autocratic rulers in Russia were known
as czars. Czar is the Russian word for Caesar.
• The Byzantine empire had its influence in the
development of history. Emerging out of the once
strong Roman empire, the Byzantines develop a
written set of law and strongly influence art and
architecture of the time.
• The Byzantine empire preserved the Greek,
Roman and Persian achievements as well as
influencing the development of Russia and
Eastern Europe.
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